Something worries me about America

Discussion in 'TM Lounge' started by John Mohan, Oct 15, 2005.

  1. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

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    Aug 11, 2004
    Chicago
    I replied to a topic discussion in the Steel Cage Match that concerned the criticisms levied toward America regarding the amount of help offered in the aftermath of the India/Pakistan earthquake. Since my reply strayed a bit off subject, I thought I would repeat most of what I wrote here in a new topic post. I'd be interested to know what other TM readers think about the following topic discussion:


    Something worries me about America. We are the superpower we are because of the accomplishments of the earlier generations. The U.S. is resting on its laurels and military power at this point, and this isn't good! Many other countries are doing a better job of educating their young (and adults). Students in America (in general) are far behind their European, Indian and Chinese counterparts. The technological might of the United States is rapidly being outpaced by the rest of the world. For gosh sakes, there are measures in several places in the US here and now in 2005 to teach creationism right alongside evolution in schools, as if there is a scientific basis for this! Meanwhile, the rest of the academic world laughs at us.

    After living in Europe for 6 years, seeing how other cultures live and comparing and contrasting that to how we Americans live , it is my experience that in general, Americans are lazy and wasteful. When in Europe, I lived in a place where people right into their 80's wouldn't dream of wasting fuel driving a car a half mile to the store. They walk or ride their bicycles. And a car in Europe that gets less than 25 mpg is considered a gas guzzler. Now I live in a place where fairly healthy men and women get into 12 mpg monstrosities (by themselves - 2 1/2 tons to transport one dummy) and drive a few blocks to pick up a grocery item or two. I've thought of a great bumper sticker to place on the backs of unsuspecting SUVs:

    Your sons and daughters are dying in Iraq so I can drive this gas-guzzling behemoth - and I don't care!

    Instead of applying the fantastic computer-based technology available to maintain levels of performance and get fantastic fuel economy (like they do for cars in the rest of the world), the automakers are applying the newly available technology to fuel a horsepower race in America (do we really need 345 horsepower in the family station wagon?!?!) at the expense of fuel economy. Go to Germany. Drive on the Autobahn. See a mid-sized E-Class Mercedes Benz sedan with a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine cruising at 130 mph. This car yields an average economy of 30 mpg. Now jump to America and watch a dummy in his Dodge Magnum 345hp station wagon. He's lucky if he can peg 20 mpg if he cruises at exactly 55 mph. Normally he'll get about 15 mpg in the real world. And for what?!?! So if he floors it, his 345hp station wagon can reach 60 mph a few seconds before the European driver's car can? This is STUPID!!!!!!

    Every time I see some huge SUV with an anti-Bush bumper sticker, I want to puke. Every time I see protestors holding signs saying "Honk if you're against the war" - protestors who for the most part drove to their little protests in gas-guzzling vehicles - I want to scream at them, "You're a hypocrite!!! We're not in Iraq because Bush wants the oil - we're in Iraq because people like you make decisions that cause us to need the oil"!

    And this raises another point. We shouldn't be in Iraq because we need their oil (we should conserve so we don't need anyone else's oil). But we should be in Iraq to fight tyranny and terrorism. That is enough of a reason for me.

    I hope that at least part of the real reason we are in Iraq is to instill freedom and democracy there. I think it is sad that more Americans don't find this to be important. The poor people of Iraq. Imagine being afraid to vote in America, because a small minority are hell-bound terrorists who want to control the country through terror and violence. That's the way it is there.

    If I found out that my next store neighbors were being brutalized, raped and tortured, I'd be bursting through their door in a New York second to help them with my Glock in my holster and my M1 Carbine in my hands. I mean that. Is Iraq so different? Do they not deserve our neighborly care? I think they do. If Bush had to use the excuse of WMD to get us over there, than I say, SHAME ON US! We should be there to help the good people of Iraq - that should be enough of a reason. There is no place on this planet for evil and terrorism. It will strike us whether we keep to ourselves (as most liberals and isolationists would have us do), or go after it. But if we go after it, eventually we will prevail. If we take the wimpy road, we're done for.

    To sum this all up, I'd say we Americans need to:

    1) Conserve resources.

    2) Educate ourselves better so we can compete with the other developed nations.

    3) Kick terrorism ass.

    Anyone disagree?

    Okay, ranting is done for today.

    Just my learned opinion,

    John Mohan
     
  2. Johntpt

    Johntpt Pianissimo User

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    Feb 11, 2004
    Toluca, Mexico
    John-

    I agree strongly with your ideas. However, it's not that Europeans are "smarter" than Americans, but that government planning has been directed that way for a long time. In Europe, due to high fuel taxes (imposed by governments purposely nudging people away from big cars), gasoline costs 2-3 times as much in Europe as it does in good ol´ USA. Add to that excellent and affordable public transportation, both within cities (subways, buses, streetcars) and between cities (trains) and of course people will choose to buy smaller, more fuel efficient cars and to use them sparingly, and the middle class still live "in" their cities and not in faraway suburbs. This is good social planning by governments, in my opinion. The larger European cities I've been to (London, Paris, Madrid, Hamburg, Vienna, Rome, Graz, Prague, Warsaw) feel comfortable, walkable, clean, and I love using public transportation there. Now compare that model to the USA. Here government social planners long ago decided that Americans need to live in the suburbs, do not need much public transport, and should buy big cars that use lots of gasoline to drive 100 miles a day round trip to work.

    And you're right that being an expat gives you a unique perspective. I've lived away now for almost 9 years.

    JU
     
  3. frank

    frank Piano User

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    May 28, 2004
    Berlin, Germany
    Can't agree with what you say about the sooo economic German cars! In recent times the trend goes to very powerful and gas-guzzling cars like Volkswagen Touareg (315 hp, 5.0, 10 cylinders) and the like. Sure there are very economic cars, but there's more development on the other end of the scale. Toyota now came up with a hybrid-powered car and Germany is lagging far behind in that field...
     
  4. Johntpt

    Johntpt Pianissimo User

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    Feb 11, 2004
    Toluca, Mexico
    Frank-

    I'm curious about something. How popular is that Touareg in Germany? I'm sure that car was designed mainly for the US market, but maybe it's popular in Germany as well. I certainly see enough of them here on the roads in Mexico!!

    JU
     
  5. Mikey

    Mikey Forte User

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    Oct 24, 2003
    **
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2007
  6. Clarino

    Clarino Mezzo Piano User

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    Nov 9, 2003
    Sheffield, England, UK

    Cars that large are not as popular over here as they are in the states. Part of the reason for this is that our roads aren't as wide. We find cars with a smaller turning circle more useful. There are large cars, but of these the most common are those that are the size of a Toyota Avensis or Ford Mondeo.

    Obscenely high fuel prices in the UK and Europe have forced car manufacturers to build more economical cars, but that hasn't quenched our need for speed. British (and European) cars generaly develop more BHP per Cubic Centimeter than American Cars and therefore are more fuel efficient and equally powerful. Or they tend to be lighter, which means that the acceleration of a car with only 200 BHP can easily beat any of the huge Ameriican Gas-Guzzlers with their 350 BHP.

    Unfortunately for me, public transport in the UK outside of London is nowhere near the level it is in Europe. Which bassically means that I am more beholden to using a Car than I'd like.

    John, your attitude is exactly what America needs right now. It seems as if Americans (generaly) have become complacent about their place in the world. There's a wonderful quote, I'm trying to remember-I'll have to look it up.
     
  7. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

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    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    I'm not so certain that it is "government planning" that has resulted in the high fuel prices in Europe. I say that because I lived in Europe from 1958 to 1962 and I recall back then that gasoline was running around 3X the price that it was here in N. A. (which would put it somewhere around $0.60 PER IMPERIAL GALLON). I seriously doubt that ANY government is capable of advance planning that far back let alone the entire collection of European governments! Remember that most of the European economy was still trying to recover from WWII to a certain extent.

    I remember these prices because the Canadian and American NATO forces were given (or could purchase?) coupon booklets that allowed them to pay the equivalent of North American prices for their fuel for personal use (touring, etc.). In fact the relative difference in prices (and vehicle size) was more due to the higher population density and simple lack of raw materials; remember that North America was (and still is) exceptionally rich in these natural resources.
     
  8. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

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    Aug 11, 2004
    Chicago
    Hi Frank,

    You missed my point (I could have been clearer – sorry). I was trying to point out the way the cars are built for European use vs. the way they are built for use in the USA.

    Examples:

    Typical Tourag in USA: huge engine and about 14 mpg
    Typical Tourag in Europe: TDI diesel engine and about 30 mpg

    Typical Mercedes E class in USA: 8 cylinder, gobs of (un-needed) hp
    Typical Mercedes E class in Europe: 4-Cylinder, 2.0 liter engine or Common-Rail Diesel. Capable of 130mph on autobahn. Capable of 25 - 30 mpg for the Benziner and 30 - 40 mpg for the Diesel.

    Jeep Cherokee in America: 2.5 liter rough running 4 cylinder that nobody buys. 4.0 192 hp engine that almost everybody bought. 16 - 20 mpg
    Jeep Cherokee in Europe: 2.8 liter Turbo Diesel - 25 - 30 mpg

    As for hybrids - they are a joke! (read on to see why): I remember back in 2000 when I read on msn.com about the new hybrids and how they were capable of getting as much as 50 or even 60 mpg". I thought to myself, "So what!" I had already bought myself a new Volkswagon Lupo 3L. This is a 3-Cylinder Turbo Diesel Model. It's no slouch - it would reach 110 mph on the Autobahn (vs. the hybrids' aproximately 85 mph top speed and snail-like acceleration). the Lupo's sub-model name "3L" refers to the fact that its average combined fuel use is exactly 3 liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers traveled. If you do the math, that works out to 80.2 mpg. Get it?!?! 80.2 MPG!!!! The Lupo 3L has been available in Europe since the late '90's. Why can't I buy one here in America?!?! Because VW doesn't think there is a market here for it! And please, don't anyone reply that it has anything to do with safety. The German ADAC gives the Lupo the highest crash rating (5 Stars) in their rating system. And it has nothing to do with emissions levels - in fact the Lupo 3L is the least polluting car ever made in terms of emissions. Here is a website if you'd all like to see what most of you don't even know has existed for more than half a decade now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VW_Lupo

    German cars are capable of getting mileage figures at or well above the current hybrids - without the drivability problems and complicated technology of hybrids. THAT is why they "lag behind" in hybrids.

    The fact is, ALL manufacturers can produce cars that get incredibly good mileage - and they do - for sale in countries other than the US. It is time for the US consumer to realize that sticking a "Buy American" bumper sticker on the back of his full-size 8-cylinder pickup truck is hypocritical - because the fuel he is constantly pouring into it comes from a lot of places - sometimes rather unsavory places - other that America.

    We all need to realize that one of the most patriotic things we can do (and one of the most self-serving) is to stop buying wasteful cars. And that doesn't mean we have to give up the fun of driving. Europeans zip around and have a great time in their smaller - great-handling sedans, station wagons, and coupes with 1.6 liter engines, all the while getting 30 - 40 mpg. Which brings up another topic - did you all know that the handling of the cars built for America is sub-par to the same cars sold in Europe? BMWs built for export for America ride about an inch higher here. They look and handle terrible compared to the same cars in Europe. Why?!?! It certainly isn't the roads - the roads in Europe (despite the high fuel taxes) tend to suck. The Autobahn is the exception to this, but city streets in Germany are rough!!! You've probably ascertained by now that I am an auto enthusiast. I LOVE sports cars. I've got a '72 Datsun 240-Z. It's a bit modified and can do 0-60 in about 6 seconds and top 140 mph. But it also gets over 20 mpg. My wife drives a Mazda Miata. It gets between 25 and 30 miles per gallon. Both cars are loads of fun, and get decent mileage. Don't ask me about my Jeep Cherokee - yes it gets only 16 - 20 mpg, but it is only driven about 2,000 miles a year when we need the extra room for kids, and when the streets of Chicago are salted in the winter (the Z hibernates in the winter). At 3200 lbs. it's no heavier than a mid-size Toyota, so it's not exactly huge. And if I had been allowed the choice of buying one with a Turbo-Diesel motor, I would have. The good news is, the Jeep Liberty is available now with a Mercedes Benz Common-Rail Diesel engine. Perhaps the times are changing. I sure hope so!

    Sincerely,

    John Mohan
     
  9. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

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    Aug 11, 2004
    Chicago
    You make great points! I just want to point out for the American readers that the Ford Mondeo you mention is badged as the Ford Contour over here in the States and is a mid-size model, and the Toyota Avenis is called a Camry in America.

    It is interesting to note that while you (and I and the rest of Europe and the World) consider the Avenis/Camry and the Mondeo/Contour to be "large" cars, over here in the States they are merely considered to be "mid-size" cars. And for gosh sakes, after you're here in the States for a few months, they even look midsize! It is strange how one becomes accustomed to things.

    Back in Germany, when I would see the occasional full-size American pick-up on the road, it would look silly it was so big. Now, though they still look huge to me, they don't look as huge. When I lived in Germany, the 7-series BMWs looked big. Now that I am back in the States for a while, when I see 7-Series Bimmers here, at first I think I am looking at a 5-series. It's all relative.

    Cheers,

    John
     
  10. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

    128
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    Aug 11, 2004
    Chicago
    No, they're not smarter - but they are far better educated. My wife's high school ("Gymnasium") education was FAR more in depth than what an American receives. By age 18 she had studied:

    Algebra
    Trigonometry
    Calculus
    French (2 years)
    Latin (6 years)
    English (2 years)
    Chemistry
    Biology
    German (of course)
    and all the typical history, social science and other liberal arts classes

    As for the efficiency of "social planning", yes as far as public transportion is concerned, the Europeans do it better.

    But:

    They pay far more for their very inefficient health care. I had to pay about $550 a month for my compulsory health insurance while working on "Der Glöckner von Notre Dame" (I had to contribute 7.85% of my salary and my employer had to kick in 7.85% of my salary) Are there any 38 year old single people out there making $4000 a month in America having to pay $550 a month for his or her single-person health insurance? I didn't think so. Europeans and Americans are brainwashed into thinking that nobody in America can "afford" health insurance. BS! It is half as much money here. The real difference is, in Europe (Germany at least) you are required by law to have health insurance - the money for it is taken out of your pay - you have no choice. Here in the States, people can choose to have a cell phone, a huge SUV, $3500 "Spinners" on that SUV, and then they have the right to say they "can't afford" health insurance. Free choice, for better or worse. I prefer free choice.

    Last thing I want to gripe about: Yes, in Europe the governments have incredible levels of taxation on fuel (about 80 to 90% tax rate!!!). So fuel costs between $6 and $8 dollars a gallon. And yes, this does help to make people and car manufactures choose economical cars. But where does the money go? It goes to the politicians!!! Every mid-level German politician gets a new black Mercedes E-Class sedan to drive. You should see them all lined up in the Reichs building parking lot! The ratio of politicians to citizens is about 20 fold in Germany what it is in America. Orwell's book "Animal Farm" is clearly the basis of the German government.

    All that money for fuel taxes, and yet in the little village of Brieselang where I lived for the last three years I was in Germany (just outside Berlin), our streets in our neighborhood were unpaved. They looked as though they had just been bombed by the allies! You had to drive 5 mph in many areas to keep from destroying your car. And you know what the government said? They claimed there was no money in the budget to pave our roads! We would have to privately fund the paving of our roads!!! Excuse me, but just where did the 90% in Fuel taxes go?!?! Danke schön Herr Schröder!

    End of rant,

    John Mohan
     

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